Saturday, March 19, 2011

Verdict, No. 1

Well, for my first go-around, I think I did fairly well. Starting off--those first few chapters--I felt like I would be way off. I even considered rewriting my Judgment so as to avoid any shame or embarrassment. But it came around. 

Play Off
First, the main character--the engaged one. There wasn't a love triangle so much, but there was a bad boy. One very inappropriate for a girl of her situation. And it is quite the scandal.

Concerning the cousin? She was actually my favorite character--much more solid than the younger, silly girls. And I was right: there was definitely an old flame unwilling to let go. But it didn't seem so dramatic here; I think it will play more into the next books. 

The best friend (a horrid girl who I hated from the get-go) was definitely the cause of all the drama. But she wasn't so quiet--I was wrong there. No, she was just a desperate slut doing desperately stupid things (like getting in with the fiance. Right again). 

They all fell apart. And the cousin and the main girl did become comrades by the end. There was a blonde with fierce blue eyes, but everyone falls in love with him--even the reader. One thing I didn't expect: the amount of drama inflicted by other characters, not any of the three girls. And Larkin seems to be taking this more seriously than I thought, with more substantial drama and less cat fights. 

Final Score
Predictability: It is a YA book and story lines tend to be recycled, yet Larkin worked well with the stereotypes, freshening them up with some unexpected daring. 
Power: It's been compared to Anna Godbersen's Bright Young Things for good reason. But, I must hand it to Larkin. She seemed well aware of the competition and wrote accordingly, avoiding the scandalous melodrama Godberson so brilliantly spins, instead taking the more serious route. She actually focuses on some very un-pretty parts of the romanticized time and there were some very weighty subjects brought up. It only makes me more interested in seeing where she goes with this the web she's entangled all her character's in. 
Proposal: Read it, if you like fast-paced love affairs with a darker side, or seedy joints populated by pretty people. 

Now, can I just say, one of my MAJOR problems is actually with the cover itself: I just don't get it. In context, it doesn't work; I couldn't pair the girl with any of the characters. For starters, all the girls had bobs. And were much more scantily clad. So who that girl is, I don't know, and I definitely don't know why she's the cover girl. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Judgment, No. 1

Pictorial Evidence
Gorgeous. Yummy. Obviously enticing. It just makes you want melt in a world of magic, where even booze is classy. It will be vapid, shallow, but sparkly. There will be fantasy against a backdrop of history, where it's true to the time but enhances all the glamour we've imagined for it. With the title so bold, the implications so obvious, the novel doesn't seem to be trying to be anything it isn't. It will be a vixen, teasing for teasing's sake, always keeping at arm's length, never going deeper, never showing fragility or vulnerability, only ever being something beautiful. A puff of smoke meant to excite and entice till all we want is more even if, simultaneously, we remain completely away of how shallow it really is.

And, okay, the armpit is a little freaky.

Cover Story
The basic storyline is this: A sheltered teenage girl is getting married to the golden boy and she's unhappy about it. Wants to live a little, experience the gilded age with a little more thrills and a lot more booze. Then, the other girls: The cousin, a society girl with a dirty secret, sure to get her into trouble. Probably a lover who won't take no for an answer and things will get dirty and desperate real fast. The quiet best friend, second to the spoiled cover character. She'll probably be the root of the drama. She's the one who's been sequestered to the background, a shadow often forgot. She'll start plotting against the ungrateful girl, desperate to have everything the other seems just as desperate to throw away.

And you just know the main girl won't stay faithful to her intended. There will just have to be a love triangle. A boy will come into the picture--some bright, young thing. Blonde, blue eyes. Maybe a scandalous affair with that inappropriate bad boy--opposites attract, right? The best friend will probably fall for the fiance or at least fall in with him. And all these conflicting emotions will tear these fragile relationships apart. Completely.

Since this is only the first part of a series, you know the climax will be gruesome. They'll all hate each other by the end. Except maybe the cousin and the main girl. They'll probably have some sort of camaraderie born from their shared infidelities or other desperate secrets.

Closing Statement
Will it be good? Oh, I hope so. Nothing like a few romantic scandals to keep you turning pages. Such a silly, operatic story--it's just what you want to curl up with to forget the mundane realities around you. I doubt it will disappoint. It definitely won't be anything of merit beyond the shallow confines of Young Adult fiction, but it will shine there. Something utterly divine and addicting. I just want to rip it open and slip in, escaping to the selfish and immature "Roaring 20's" where laws were something to laugh at and worrying was a pastime for the parents.

It just sounds...yummy.

The Idea

I'm all for quick judgments. And there's nothing I love more than picking up pretty books. It's practically impossible for me to become interested in a book with an ugly cover. I mean, the cover is its selling point, and if they fail at making that attractive, why would the innards be worth it (not to sound gruesome)? But then there's still the problem of the contents--I mean, innards--being awful no matter how gorgeous the cover. The solution? None, really. But I figured I'd make an...experiment out of it.

Every book I read, before I crack it open, I'll judge it. Dissect it. Base all my expectations only on the cover itself, There will be three levels of judgment: The photo, the description and catchline, and my immediate opinion (because that's what counts). Each book, I'll write a sort of fortune, and then I'll read it and compare.

Since this is a rather-involved process of criticism, I'll try to keep the format simple and clear. Every book will have two posts, the Judgment and the Verdict.

The Judgment is the cover part where all I will have to go off of is the cover, be it the picture, the back, the title, the flaps--anything on the dust jacket per se.  It will start with me guessing the tone and subject based solely on the front cover--so what it looks like, the cover photo. This will be called "Pictorial Evidence." Next, I'll read the proffered summary and/or catch phrase (be it on the back or the front flap) and then I'll predict the plot. Only off of that--no sneak peek at the text, no online synopses, no preview reading of even the prologue. Just the cover and my (impressive) intuition. This I will label "Cover Story." Finally, from all that, I will celebrate my ego more by deciding if it will be any good. This is creatively called "Closing Statement."

The Verdict is for after I finish the book. It serves as an obviously more objective critique but will mostly revolve around my first impressions. This post too will have parts: The "Play Off" where I look at how well I did, letting the reality and my surmising battle it out. I will try to avoid major spoilers, keeping everything vague and general. And if I was dead-on, you can be sure I'll pat my back more than a few times. Just sayin'. The only other part will be called "Final Score" where I again tell you--this time with material beyond my own feathered ego--if it really was any good. This itself will revolve around three parts: Predictability (was my being able to tell the plot--or not--based solely on the cover a hinderance to the novel? Or was it still good?), Power (what was the novel's strengths? Or weaknesses?), and Proposal (should you read it?).

This format will probably evolve/change/blow up in my face, but I'll stick to it for now. And maybe this is all a massive ego trip (I did, after all, know that Snape was good AND that he was in love with Harry's mother. All before the final book came out, even after Dumbledore died. So...there's my experience for you. And it's pretty impressive). But I thought it'd be an interesting blend of intrigue and critique. After all, if I get it wrong (and I probably will. ...once in a while), at least I'll be berating myself as much as the text. And no one likes a cocky critic too insecure to poke fun at themselves.

Which I guess is an oxymoron.

But enough. Here goes nothing.